October 17 – BLESS – What does this mean to you?

Read Acts 8:26-40

Imagine the scene.

You’re called to the gates of Heaven. You’re at a loss for words because of the spectacular beauty that surrounds you. All of the stories and speculation that you heard during your earthly life come nowhere close to what you see. At that point in time, nothing else matters. You see the streets of gold and can feel the very presence of the Lord. At this point, you look off to the side to see a friend overcome with emotion. This is a friend that you had invited to church many times but were never really sure anything stuck with them. You tried to have spiritual conversations with them but, according to you, you didn’t get anywhere. They ended up accepting Christ! Through the tears, this friend says, “Thank you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”

You never really know the impact of investing in someone can have. You never know if you are the only Jesus they will ever experience. You don’t know that the time you passed up to talk to them was the last time you were ever going to talk to them. Your voice, your invitation, your care could be just what they need to turn the page in their life…turning the page to eternity with Christ.

What amazes me about this BLESS series that we have gone through is the deliberate layout of the letters. First, we learned that we need to begin with prayer. Next, we need to listen to others. We then find out ways that we can intentionally invest in others followed by identifying ways that we can serve them. All of these steps describe the framework that goes into softening their heart to the gospel. What amazes me is that there are 4 steps which take place before the gospel ever comes into the picture.

What does this show you?

To me, it shows that there is so much more to evangelism than the presentation. How are you going to present the gospel to someone that has no interest in hearing it? How are you going to present the gospel when the person isn’t really convinced you care about them and truly want what’s best for them?

In our reading today, Phillip exemplifies the BLESS acrostic well. It’s much more than a presentation. It’s about caring for, investing and guiding them towards Jesus.

It is our prayer that, through this BLESS series, you have been equipped and encouraged to invest in the lives of those around you like never before. We pray that you leave this series with a game plan of how you are going to reach those close to you with the hope of the gospel and live out each of the letters of BLESS.

You never know, your invitation may be what convinces them to cross from death to life.

Jake Lawson

October 16 – BLESS – SHARE the Story

Read 1 Peter 3:8-16

When we first started coming to Grace Church, I kept hearing about this ministry that helped equip you to better share your faith in Jesus Christ and what this relationship has meant in your life. I felt a prodding to do it, but I was scared and a bit lazy. Finally, after a few months, I could no longer ignore God’s prompting and I committed to being involved in this ministry for a semester.

The idea was that we would learn the basic points of the gospel, get better about sharing God’s faithfulness in our lives, and share this with family, friends, co-workers or whomever. We put into practice what we were learning by visiting people who had visited the church. The vast majority of people were very impressed that we would take the time to come out and see them. The goal was to listen and get to know them better and maybe have an opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ. One of the things that would really have fouled up sharing with someone is if you had a bad reputation, which really gets around in a small community or talking badly about other people or other churches.

There are many reasons for doing and saying the right things but I think Peter’s emphasis here is don’t do anything that would keep someone from learning the truth about Jesus Christ and hopefully coming into a relationship with Him.

My prayer is that we will all ask God for opportunities to interact with people, watch for these opportunities and ask Him for the timing and the words to help people know about Jesus and make an informed decision as to whether or not to receive the free gift of forgiveness.

When talking with people, we won’t always have the opportunity to share about Jesus but it’s a “win” if we just truly listen to them, get to know them better and maybe be able to meet a need in their lives.

We aren’t going to be perfect and I never want to come across as though I think I am, but we can take responsibility when we foul up and do our best to “fix it”.

When people see a positive difference in us and are curious as to why, we need to be ready to answer them in a concise manner and point them to Jesus Christ.

So, let’s be careful what we say and do so we can ultimately help others by serving them and sharing about the hope and love that is found in Jesus Christ.

Mike Molter

October 15 – BLESS – SERVE Others

Read Matthew 5:13-16

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”

Matthew 5:13 MSG

Sometimes serving is easy and sometimes it is not. For some, it is easy to be a greeter or an usher at church. It may not be difficult to say “good morning” to people and ask how they’re doing. In an effort to be salt and seasoning, one could mow the neighbor’s yard or shovel the snow when they can’t do it.

But serving can also be difficult sometimes. “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”  Romans 7:18b

My dad, who always said he was agnostic, lived with us for nine weeks before he passed away in 2016. He did not want to be served. As a former Captain in the Marines, he viewed accepting any kind of help as a weakness. He did not want medicine, oxygen or any kind of help from us other than living with us. His IPF disabled his lungs and we tried to help him make his life a little easier, but he did not want help. He did not want to be served. So, we served non-verbally by not asking, “Can I help you?” or providing a home, a bed, meals, arranging friends to visit, etc. Somehow, through the grace of God, a great thing happened: he became a Christian three days before his death. And that, my friend, is the greatest miracle I have ever seen.

Whenever we serve someone, we have the opportunity to act verbally or nonverbally to honor God. We could ask them, “You know Jesus loves you, right?” Or we could just say “Jesus loves you” or “God bless.” We can also put statements like these in a text, an email, a letter or a website. We could give them something such as a coin with a scripture verse with Colossians 3:23 on it. Let them know that Jesus loves them and that we are a believer in Jesus Christ as the son of God by our actions, our words and our aroma. We are serving in His name.

“I can be there for you when it can’t get much harder.

I can cover your head when life starts to rain.

I can hold on tight when it feels like you’re falling.

I can build you up when you’re broken in shame.

But if all that we do is absent of Jesus,

Then this ‘so called’ love is completely in vain.”

Bart Millard

Let’s look for opportunities to serve and be salt-seasoning for the purpose of honoring God! That’s why we are here!

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” 

Colossians 3:2.

Tom Weckesser

October 14 – BLESS – EAT Together

Read Matthew 9:9-13

Remember the childhood quintessential sharing of a lunch? You know, two children sitting shoulder to shoulder on a bench swinging their legs that don’t yet reach the ground. One child has a full lunch box and the other just an apple. They shyly eye one another. Then, the one with the full lunch shares his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The other one gladly accepts the gracious gift. Both have grins on their faces as they eat together – one grateful to have received the half sandwich so his belly doesn’t grumble all afternoon and the other satisfied to have met the need of a friend .. . BOTH thrilled to have the other to call friend.

It’s really not about the food. It’s about the sharing. The sharing of food.  The sharing of conversation.  The sharing of friendship. I have a friend who periodically invites me to get coffee with her . This is so sweet because, you see, she doesn’t even like coffee and she knows I do. She doesn’t care about the refreshments we enjoy together as much as the relationship we cultivate.

When we eat together, we make time for listening to others. I had a professor in college who shared with us how he met with parents of his students at McDonald’s. Over coffee or French fries, they would discuss their student’s needs. This meeting outside of school in a comfortable setting over food demonstrated this teacher’s desire to develop a relationship with the families he worked with. He would listen and offer advice and build trust.

The example of Jesus eating with tax collectors helps us understand the relationship building that is vital to sharing the hope of Jesus with others. Jesus stopped after a busy day and made time for conversation over a meal. He ate, not only with his friends (Luke 10:38) and religious leaders (Luke 7:36), but with outcasts and disreputable people (Matthew 9:10). We can follow this example by devoting time to eating together with people we are building relationships with. We can be intentional about who we choose to eat with. Do you have time for a cup of coffee or burgers with a friend? How about donuts with your daughter? Or ice cream with your son? Who could you invite over for a meal?

Tammy Finney

October 13 – BLESS – LISTEN to Others

Read Luke 18: 35-48

For over five years I have had the privilege of coaching debate teams. Being a debater is an incredible opportunity for any high schooler to develop their abilities to communicate effectively and professionally from a young age. As a former debater myself, I know the benefits of being a part of this program. Perhaps, however, the hardest part of learning how to debate, and certainly the hardest part of coaching and teaching debate, is emphasizing the importance of listening. Succeeding in a debate is as much about listening as it is about effectively orating your arguments.

In 2020, it appears as if listening to others, especially those we disagree with, is a non-option. Civil discourse and finding common ground, at least for the time being, are strategies seemingly only employed in the past. The example Jesus provides to us in our reading today, however, should inform us how we, as Christians, should engage in culture and with others. Much like succeeding in a debate round, this passage in Luke shows us that successfully engaging in life often means hearing out those who are not like us.

At face value, there could not have been two more opposite folks than the main characters in this passage. On one hand, we have Jesus- Lord, Messiah, the Savior, and a man that, at that time, was literally followed by huge crowds. On the other hand, we have a blind beggar- very poor, outcast by society because of his impairment, and a reject. Notice how the crowds wanted to keep them separated. Culture and society would not have these two engage in dialogue. It would be taboo.

Jesus was a trailblazer. He came to show us what love is and what love does. He is love. Jesus shows us, in this instance, that two very different people from two very different walks of life can engage together. Jesus, at this moment, shows us that to listen is to show love. This moment is also striking because, as much as the crowds wanted to keep the man separated from Jesus, it was his faith that caught the attention of Jesus. Not who the beggar was or what he did. It was his faith that Jesus admired. Trusting Jesus in faith set this man free from blindness, and it is that same trust and faith in our Savior that will set you and I free from the burden of our sin.

I wonder who you are feeling pressured by society and culture not to engage with? My prayer for you and I is that, in these difficult days, we will heed the example of Jesus and show love to people who think differently than we do by genuinely listening to them. Listening out of love, not out of obligation.

Taylor Bennington

October 12 – BLESS – BEGIN with Prayer

Read Luke 10:1-12

One of my best friends in high school lived on an apple orchard. We had picnics there in the summer. At the time of harvest, they would take ladders to trees and start work early so they could pick their fruit to sell and make applesauce. I always knew I was welcome in that orchard.

But I would not have been so bold as to picnic or even to wander around that apple orchard, if I didn’t know the people who owned it. Especially at harvest time, I wouldn’t have dared step foot into that orchard because it didn’t belong to me.

When Jesus sent 72 of His followers out to all the places and towns He was about to go, He made sure they knew whose work they were bidding, whose land they were preparing.

“The harvest is plentiful,” He said, “but the workers are few.” (v.2)

Then He likened the places they were about to go to a field that was ripe for the harvest. A field that belonged to the Lord Himself.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (v.2)

It was His harvest, His field, and they were His workers appointed to do His work. In every one of these words Jesus spoke, He never once led His disciples to believe that any part of that field belonged to them. He never even suggested that any one of them had made the harvest what it was – plentiful and ready. It was all His.

In fact, Jesus is the only one who took action in these first two verses. Jesus appointed. Jesus sent. Jesus told. The only action demanded of the workers? Ask.

The harvest field still belongs to Him. This world, this county, this town, this neighborhood. It’s His for the harvest. That’s why we are to ask Him. Our job starts with the ask. Always. It begins with prayer.

It’s where Jesus began His instructions for those 72 disciples. And it’s where you and I need to begin too. Ask. Pray for workers for the harvest. Pray for your friends whom He loves.

Yes, pray. Ask. Let Jesus take the lead as you go into the ready harvest and tell about the real life He came to give them.

Bria Wasson

October 11 – BLESS

Read Romans 10:1-21

Every time I read this passage, I am struck by the way that Paul describes the progression to a person’s salvation. He outlines those steps in reverse order.

  • Those who are saved must call upon the Lord (v. 13)
  • Those who call on the Lord must believe (v. 14a).
  • Those who believe in Him must hear about Him (v. 14b).
  • In order for a person to hear, there must be a preacher (v. 14c).
  • In order to preach, a person must be sent (v. 15).

The sending of preachers, then, is foundational to the salvation of people.

Don’t get too hung up on presuppositions and spiritual stereotypes here. To be sure, the sending includes that of missionaries crossing an ocean, but it is not limited to that. God sends every one of His children (Matt. 28:19, 20). It is true that the “preacher” includes the person who stands in front of a camera and/or on a stage and proclaims biblical truth. But it is not limited to either. He desires to use every Christ follower in proclaiming the message of the gospel (Col. 4:5, 6). In fact, with the growing aversion to “preachers” in the stereotypical sense, people are often more receptive to hearing a Christian friend sharing gospel truths in the context of a relationship.

Grace Church has emphasized that relational dimension over the last years by encouraging you to identify five people…your 5. These are people you want to see follow Jesus. Have you identified your 5? Are you making redemptive relational inroads into their lives?

Over the next seven days, you will explore relational keys that will help you to “BLESS” those in your neighborhood and network of relationships. The acrostic “BLESS” provides reminders of key dimensions of relational outreach.

Here are the topics you will be touching on:

  • BEGIN with prayer
  • LISTEN to others
  • EAT together
  • SERVE others
  • SHARE the story

Thanks for joining us for the launch of this series. For today, you can begin by listing your key relationships with people who do not yet know Jesus. Begin to see yourself as the “preacher” that God has sent in order for them to hear, believe, and be saved.

Steve Kern